tv [untitled] August 19, 2010 3:00pm-3:30pm PST
as a neighborhood it's really only been 10 years with residential down there. the residential is great. you see people walking their dogs. you heard mention of kindergartens. you see life on the weekends. ironically a lot of people who work in this building will also live in the neighborhood. so to me it's part of building a neighborhood. i think the exceptions are relatively minor, and if you were to build a project strictly by code you'd have a worse building and not a better building. and that's the reason that you ask for exceptions. and ironically i think a building half the size would still have -- generate a lot of the complaints about light, shadow and view, because half the size would also block my view. so anyway, i'd just like the neighborhood to get on with itself and let's finish. thank you. president miguel: thank you. is there additional public comment on this item? public comment is closed. commissioner moore.
commissioner moore: i'd like to ask architect fifer to explain to the commission why you think, personally speaking, the taller building is indeed better relative to the architect you're intending to do, and could you comment of how the code-compliant building does or does not realize the architect's vision? i think the project is very interesting, and could you please explain if your architectural vision can only be realized in the non-code-complying building. if you could step to the microphone and explain that to us. thank you. >> i think that when you look at the rendering of the building, i think that all of the setbacks have been made and really add the appropriate
scale to the building. of course you could make a lower building. of course you could change its proportions. but i don't see anything in the proportions of this building that would arm the scale of the neighborhood. commissioner moore: i appreciate your comment. i think that's a great comment, it's an honest comment and i appreciate you saying that. one other quick technical question. relative to the -- what did i say? maintaining that building. glass buildings, as you know, are hard to maintain. the detailing is complicated. what do you see yourself relative to that being an issue? >> you know, glass buildings are kind of a reflection of our time. i think we live in a time now where we can build and make buildings look light and transparent and add to the kind of modern city. i think cities are vital when
they have all different styles. i don't think there is just one style. i think we live in a moment when we should express buildings about our time in our place and our generation with our values of openness and accessibility. and i think those were different from the times when maybe some of the historic buildings were built. and i think cities become vital when you have both, particularly buildings that can open themselves to the street now, that can have large panes of glass that begin to accept the life of the city in them. in terms of the maintenance of glass, i think that's a very easy thing to do now, with swing stages, with glass cleaning. i just don't think that that's an issue in how buildings shall maintained today. commissioner moore: thank you. i wanted to ask a quick question for architect manus. there were several people in the audience, and i don't know
one way or the other, nor do i want to put you on the spot. but you are a technical architect as well. there were questions expressed regarding foundations, including potential proximity issues with some of the structural elements regarding transfer -- transbay terminal and tunnels, etc.. could you just briefly say something? and if you don't, that's ok, too. >> well, let me say first, thank you, commissioner moore, for answering that question. because i felt compelled in the course of the conversation. the first thing obviously is that both being a design and technical architect, i understand the differences. there's not any hesitation in my mind that any structural engineer who has the credentials to build high-rise buildings would be designing anything that would be unsafe, ok? whether it's a mack foundation that bears on strata, ok, or it's a pile that's driven by the system that the structural engineer is going to put their stamp on. they are both safe.
they don't provide any impediment in terms of the development of the site. the discussion about the cover or -- for the rail i think is a result of the system that is ultimately going to be selected. and i think the full intent of this team is to be able to buy a coordinated effort with the jtpa and the development of that. what i would honestly say is that every major city in the world develops adjacent high-rise buildings. and if we're looking to make this city more sustainable, transportation and high density go hand-in-hand. >> you answered my question. thank you. i have one more quick question for mr. shannon, who is obviously in front of this commission frequently. mr. shannon, what is your timetable for this building? we are obviously in discussion with extensions to the owners of the building and we are starting to be a little bit pressed by the fact that we're sitting here and benevolently
approving buildings and nothing is happening. so this is a particularly critical building to all of us. what is your intents? >> yes. i think mr. harvey talked about the market. the market clearly is in a down point in the cycle but it is clearly recovering. and for larger tenants there are a limited number of options. as i think most of you know, the e.p.a., which is located just around the corner from this, has been out actively looking for sites. it's critical to us to be able to compete for that requirement, to have your approval. we can't get to square one with the e.p.a. without having an approved project. they won't take us seriously. also, there are tenants like sales force that are out there in the marketplace looking. we will build this project as soon as it is viable. and we began this process, i think it's worth noting, in 2006, and we went to full schematic drawings on a building that dee was fond of before we had a curveball
thrown at us by the planning department. we approved 555 mission in 2001. we went through the dot-com bust. we waited for the right thing. we built the only speculative office building that's been built in san francisco since 2000. i think we built a good contribution. we intend to move forward with this as soon as viable. and clearly the market in san francisco is coming back and we would like to do this as soon as we can. commissioner moore: but your answer is you don't know, if i hear you correctly. >> i can't tell you that. i will say that from the time it goes to the board of supervisors to get the height finalized, that there's probably somewhere between 10 and 12 month. so even if market picks up dramatically, we couldn't be under construction shorter than 10 to 12 months from the board of supervisors, because the time required to do the detailed drawings. commissioner moore: let me ask you one additional question and
then i'll be handing it over to the other commissioners. what are the reasons why you need an exception, and could you do a building which indeed stays within its zoning limits? >> sure. it's a very fair question. it's appropriate. the e.i.r., i think, went through and looked at the code-complying project in some detail. a lot of the dialogue over the last four years between us and the department had to do with where we were looking for exceptions and what was appropriate and what was not. one of the things that's quite painful to us, but very important to the department -- and we stood behind -- is making the top of the building completely compliant. we strongly believe that the building we're presenting here is a better building. we believe that that's what the exception process is for. we believe that the e.i.r. has given the commission the chance to scrutinize this. we think the bulk exception -- what we're doing in the bulk
exception is we're simply moving mass that could be at the bottom of the building into the middle of the building. the middle and the bottom together are smaller than they could be under the code. the middle floors are 493 square feet larger than permitted by code. it's a very minor change, but it makes those floor plates significantly more viable from our perspective. it also allows us to tie the height of the base to the historic building next door. and that was one of the most important things in working with the department. sure, we could make the base bigger. we could stick another floor in the building which would limit the public open space at the ground floor and get to the same place, but it would be a much worse building. commissioner moore: that's ok. i think mr. manus has explained some of that together with mr. fifer. the other thing is you and i
did agree to disagree. we sat in our office and talked about that. i do believe that the people who came before us and created rules did that with understanding of well-designed buildings, well-shaped buildings which collectively together did the right thing. i practiced in one of the firms where i sat besides my colleague, an architect, for 26 years and did exactly that. having said that, i do believe that the current rules are actually there to help create the right buildings, and i do believe that your argument that the buildings -- that exceptions are there to create better buildings is not correct, at least -- unless we review together the rules of the design. i do appreciate you answering my candid questions, and that would be for me at the moment everything. thank you. president miguel: commissioner antonini. commissioner antonini: i know there's been a lot of talk about the exceptions, and there
have been more exceptions than this building is asking in the past. but the important thing here is that the exceptions are all in my mind relatively minor and for good reason. and, you know, we talk about, for example, this is zoned predominantly 350 feet in height. there is a small area less than 15% that's 150 and it makes sense that that be changed to make it a more viable project. and it's really not going to change a lot of the other things very much by having that addition segment. and that certainly makes a lot of sense to me. it would be kind of bizarre if that did drop down to that 150. i think in terms of the shadow, the downtown plan interesting -- and it was pointed out in 1983 -- emphasizes the period march 21 to september 21 as being the most important time to look at because that's when, you know, they felt that the shadows, if it did cast shadows then, the impact was most
profound. as everyone knows as we go into fall the shadows get longer. if you remember the days when they played the world series during the day, it was great to see the long shadows in october. now it's all night, so you never see those. but i think the impact here is no new shadow, from what i understand, or virtually none during that period from the spring of equinox to the fall equinox, but there is.67 which in my mind is insignificant. we're allowed that exemption. and then the bulk is explained certainly honoring the 631 howard by keeping that at the same height, and that's very important. in reading this report, i had a real appreciation for george kellum who was the architect of that building which included the shell building, standards oil, the russ building, some of my favorite buildings from the
1920's and early 1930's, and i certainly think that's very important. and wind speeds are, of course, again, a very small -- and there always is a factor. some go up, some go down slightly. very, very small, and we can't even consider the mitigation that may be caused by the trees. and the one thing i really like about this is the vast amounts of public open space, and it reminds me a pit of 101 second only a larger space and that's really a very nice space. and the comments have come up about viability in the office market. there are, in my minds, three types of office buildings in san francisco, all of which are great. the 1920's and 1930's, as i alluded to, which are wonderful buildings, and then the late 1960's, 1970's, 19 30's and then the post 2,000's. and it's an entirely different thing today. and many businesses, most of which were apt to attract in
san francisco or keep in san francisco need the floor plates and designs that allow flexibility between floors. i was lucky enough to tour 555 mission and it's an impressive building. when you go on a tour of the offices, you really are impressed with the difference. not that the russ building is a wonderful building, but it's a different type of building and most of the growth has occurred south of market precisely because we can build these types of buildings. and the market will pick up, as we saw during the dot-com boom when every possible commercial space was grabbed, and this is boom and bust. but overall there will be a big market, and we want there to be a rktmafment we want to re-attract business to san francisco, where it should be, not in san ramon or somewhere else throughout the bay area, where people have to travel for miles and miles to get to work. and that's another point.
there was some talk about the fact that there would be traffic congestion. i think there's only 54 parking spaces allowed for this building. so we're not talking about a residential building where people will be coming in and out of it. almost everyone who works there would come by bart, muni, by foot, as they now do on second street. certainly there's ground-floor retail, which will enlighten the thing. i know infin ty has enlightened that part along spear street. and finally, there was a discussion of the balance, and there is a lot of office already in that asia that was described between market, free month, hawthorne and fulton, and then there is some residential, and i think this will keep the balance going. so i think it's a good project. as is always the case, staff will continue to work with project sponsor on any architectural tweaking, but it's a pretty well-designed building and in my mind it's
ready to go. president miguel: commissioner borden. commissioner borden: yeah. i can understand -- i went to look at a project and i can understand the size and the scale for what's currently on second street, the concerns by the neighborhood. but it is the c-3 district where density and height is 350. and i guess my question just very generally, as i look at the code-compliant alternative, and even with the alternative, it's still a 350-foot height predominantly in the height and still a shadow exception. so i guess i'm not really clear. maybe you can talk about based on what we see here, it doesn't seem like you can easily design a building that can -- it looks like you'd have to design a pyramid-type building to actually not have the shadow be an impact. i guess what i'm trying to be clear on is, what is it that people are asking for? the code-compliant alternative
still has the same shadow issue. >> the code-compliant alternative -- and this is one of my comments -- is not a code-compliant alternative because it walks away from 146-a. there is a plan in the planning code -- and i don't have it here with me, i'm sure staff does. the code has a plane in it for how -- plain in it for how you are supposed to design buildings, so it doesn't intrude into that plain. and it's that exact situation that it was done done for. the code says 62 degrees at 132 feet, and that was the intention of the code. the intention of the code was to say that is how you design a building. and because it's intruding into the plain, there are shadows cast on second street. and that was the whole struggle in the downtown plan.
that was extraordinarily conscious discussion. i believe mr. manus went through the discussions and i went through the discussions. i think we were the only two people in the room that did. maybe mr. lee. but it went on for years. how do you design buildings? how do you design buildings to not have wind effects? winds were another big issue for the planning commission. and so -- and in the end they said we are protecting, under 146-a, new montgomery street and second street, a conscious decision, and they said -- and it's in the code and there's a map in the code. i don't have it right here. this is the plain and that's how you get this done. so it's not just a pyramid. it's kinds of sloping on one side. it's not -- as you go up, you protect second street. they weren't concerned about protecting the west side of the
building. they were concerned about second street. and i'm sure one the staff people can pull that up and-shot to you. i don't have the code with me. thank you. commissioner borden: maybe you could talk about the discussion that you had at the planning staff and why you -- i mean, i know that they grouped the building to be more responsive to the historic building next door. i personally don't like big podium buildings, so i like the concept of a lesser podium. but can you talk about how you looked at the shadow plain and what were the considerations for supporting this design? >> certainly. thank you, commissioner. first of all, there are criteria in the code that allow under certain circumstances for the commission to grant an exception. and i'll get into those in just a moment. but if i can have the overhead, this is a representation of the sloping sunlight access plain that was referred to. both in elevation and
three-dimensional view. so this line represents the 132-foot point at which that sunlight access plain is supposed to begin sloping back at 62 degrees. and what this shows in this particular -- for this particular site is that it effectively casts the height of the subject property lower than the regulated height that applies to -- the majority of the site from a 150-foot zone, which is on the opposite side. so the criteria for exception are the criteria that staff considers in making its recommendations are, number one, whether it create an ungainly or an unduly burdensome restriction on the site and number two, that the shadow that is cast on the sidewalks is not really a significant shadow because of where it falls or what time it falls at the duration. focusing on the issue of the
nature of the shadow, i know there were excerpts shown that at specific times a day, maybe with what could be perceived as dire shadows being cast, but it should be understood that obviously shadows are a dynamic thing throughout the year and across time. we don't necessarily consider senate shots in time when we're looking -- snapshots in time. you have to consider the totality of the year. shad doim pacts on sidewalks for most of the year were on average 45 minutes. certain parts of the year were a little bit less, or new shadows were eliminated entirely. certainly parts of the year were longer. around the solstice months when the duration and shadows got longer, it was in-between lunch hour and prior to sort of the evening pedestrians commute hours. so one would presume there would be less pedestrians traffic on the street. obviously it's a subjective call as to how much of an
ungainly form precludes development or how much the project makes it economically unfeasible, but according to the calculations provided, presuming that development would essentially be capped on this site on this 21st floor and above and then substantially be reduce blowed it, the proposed project would reduce by about 100,000 square feet of development potential. and it essentially amounts to a project zone that is zoned at this height. commissioner borden: can you talk about the difference between the bulk? it's the mid area that's causing the bulk exception. could you talk about that? >> the lower portion of the project, which is the central part of the tower above the base, below the upper-most kind of setback portion, does exceed the bulk requirement in a
couple of respects. number one, the diagonal sort of plan dimension with a maximum floor size just slightly. it's about 500 square feet over the maximum floor size and there's also a requirement for maximum average floor size for the lower tower, that's 17,000 square feet. each floor in this particular tower is 27,000 square feet. as mentioned by the project sponsor, the base, which does not have any bulk requirements, is actually a little bit smaller than it would be allowed to be. commissioner borden: but the bulk requirements don't change the shadow. >> no, they are two independent requirements of the code, each with their own criteria and considerations for considering requests for exceptions. commissioner borden: so the bulk doesn't have any effect on that. >> correct. exactly. obviously the shape of the building can affect wind and shadow patterns.
but as far as a process on whether or not to grants an exception, they're different in each case. >> if i could add to that, so you understand the department's ration nail for the recommendation. mr. shannon is right, that's fairly late in the process i asked them to consider fairly major design changes. and we felt that bulk of the upper part of the building was inappropriate from that site both from a street presence and from a skyline presence and we felt that if the upper tower was to be -- could be reduced in size to more closely meet the requirements and intent of the code, then having the bulk increase in the lower floors made more sense. essentially a tradeoff between the upper third or upper half of the building and the lower third of the building. with respect to the shadow, the concern that i had that i've seen in fact in many places is such a drastic reduction in floor-plate size simply leads
to a building that had unworkable floors. they lead to floors that are 7,000 square feet or less. and buildings of that type simply have not been built. even residential buildings cannot be built on that small scale. it's simply not possible anymore for a building that small with that small a floor plate. so it's a code requirement that has great intent. i totally understand the intent of it. i simply don't think it's realistic anymore to have buildings with those type of floor plates. it simply doesn't work anymore. that's why we recommended the bulk dr the exception to that particular code requirement and why we propose having a smaller floor plate at the top portion of the building and a somewhat larger floor plate at the bottom. commissioner borden: thank you for that. i know we see in general a lot of bulk exceptions, whether it's affordable housing, for-profit housing or office buildings. and i think at some point we should have a hearing -- i mean, i'd like to better understand what is wrong with
our code maybe, that we have this problem fairly often. president miguel: commissioner sugaya. commissioner sugaya: yes, thank you. i guess for me, i understand that -- and i think this is right. a code-compliant building, as people have been trying to point out, probably is not going to result in anything that's substantially -- i hate to use the word different, but you're not going to get what you think you're going to get for those who testified along those lines. and i think the project sponsor and architects have probably pointed that out also. for me becoming code compliant isn't the issue. i just think that the mass and scale of this building is too big for the site and location that it's at, adjacent to a conservation district and in this part of town. and i'm extremely disappointed that the developer hasn't taken that more into consideration
and provided us with a design that is much more compatible with the surrounding area, but has chosen to basically max out the f.a.r., the height and everything else. maybe that's probably based on considerations of profit and how much they paid for the property, etc., etc., and they have to get everything out of it. i quite understand all of that. but i think the building is not the right building. and for staff to say that the upper tower is now more slender and the amount of square footage has now been transferred lower into the building is just playing with the same amount of square footage without having reduced it one bit from my perspective. so that's my problem is basically that we have a situation from a civic kind of standpoint and a city
standpoint that i don't believe this building fits into the environment the way that it's surntly designed. i have no problem with it being 350 square feet. it's just the way that it's massed that i think intrudes upon the area that surrounds this particular location. president miguel: commissioner lee. commissioner lee: i have a little different take on this. i always listen to ms. hester about some of the adverse commute issues that we have is that we're building condos housing from people for google and yahoo!. there are buses to take them down south. many issues with these large corporations with wells fargo to charles schwab is to bring all their satellite offices from downtown to be more efficient into a building that could take what they have.
e.p.a., which is large there next door in the back on hawthorne lane. so in some ways i did have the opportunity to meet with carl and heller man us to discuss this issue. part of the argument, which is fairly true, is the silicon valley or mission bay, the question is economies to scale. to have a large enough building where you can get these corporations to actually -- and the use government. there's a reason why the u.s. government built a height density from the courthouse to bring all their satellite people to be more efficient and have a more moderate building, where your floor space is such that having your ventilation, instead of blowing from below, coming from the top to have a floor where all your optic fibers are from the bottom, that you can move around pe